There’s something funny about the title of this post, and it’s what happened at the start of the State of the Union tonight. (By the way, kudos to MSNBC for posting the transcript, as spoken, immediately after the speech ended.)
Thank you very much. And tonight I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own as the first president to begin the State of the Union message with these words: “Madame Speaker.”
Another lie? Self-referential lies aren’t as bad as lies about weapons of mass destruction, but they’re more interesting to linguistics at least. Why? The first words of the State of the Union are “Thank you very much.” They are not “Madame Speaker” as he claimed. It’s funny, of course, because the very utterance in which he makes a claim about what he said falsifies the claim. The President ought to have said the following:
Thank you very much. And tonight I have the high privilege and distinct honor of my own as the first president to end the first paragraph the State of the Union message with these words: “Madame Speaker.”
But that’s not as elegant. To preserve a different aspect of the meaning, he might have said:
“Madame Speaker” are words that tonight I have had the high privilege and distinct honor of my own of being the first president to begin the State of the Union message with. Thank you very much.
(Not that I think he really should have said either of those, but it is, indeed, what he might have said if his speech writer were a stickler for precise, silly details.)
Maybe I haven’t given him enough benefit of the doubt. Let’s call that paragraph meta-speech and not technically a part of the State of the Union. Like, he gets to say it but we don’t count it as a part of the actual State of the Union. Because, if we consider the next two paragraphs as meta-speech also:
In his day, the late Congressman Thomas D’Alesandro, Jr. . . . Congratulations, Madame Speaker! Congratulations.
Two members of the House . . . Tim Johnson and Congressman Charlie Norwood.
Then finally we get to a point where he does seem to start up the “real” speech, starting in the traditional way, and with the words “Madam Speaker”.
Madam Speaker, Vice President Cheney, Members of Congress, distinguished guests, and fellow citizens . . .
But, ah-ha! You may have noticed that the spelling of Madam changed from the first paragraph. That was MSNBC’s doing, which seems like a subversive way of ensuring the President did not start with “Madame Speaker” after all. It’s the left-wing media at work.
This of course all reminds me of Godel, Escher, Bach, which I finished reading recently. In it, Achilles says someone keeps crank calling him on the phone and shouting:
“Is false when preceded by its negation! Is false when preceded by its negation!”
The President may have inadvertently proved the incompleteness of number theory without realizing it.